Tech Talk: Campaign to Organize Digital Employees Pushes For Workers’ Union
Over the past few years, there has been an explosion in video games with cult-like followings. According to Forbes, the video game industry is anticipated to reach a predicted market growth of $196 billion in 2022, up 70 percent from $138.7 billion in 2018. With so much demand, video game and tech workers are often under an exorbitant amount of pressure to churn out the latest and greatest games and updates, many of them working 100-hour weeks or more for months at a time—a practice fittingly referred to as “crunch,” according to the Los Angeles Times. In addition to unmanageable schedules, common complaints center around unfair work practices, gender inequality and fragile unemployment, the gaming industry has a turnover of 15.5 percent, according to LinkedIn, causing many employees to constantly fear the prospect of being laid-off or demoted.
To help provide more stability and fairness for these workers, the Communication Workers of America (CWA), the largest communications and media union in the U.S., teamed with Game Workers Unite—an international movement and organization advocating to unionize the gaming industry. Together, they launched the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE), an effort led by Game Workers Unite co-founder Emma Kinema. The campaign is to advocate for a worker’s union that covers tech and gaming employees, and although a union wouldn’t necessarily guarantee employees stable, permanent positions, it will force industry companies to at least consider the effects of layoffs. The campaign follows a series of employee protests, walkouts and activism at high-profile companies like Amazon and Google over the past few years. According to the Los Angeles Times, Activision Blizzard, a video game company, laid off hundreds of its workers across the U.S. and France in February 2019. The U.S.-based employees were left without jobs or health insurance and very little to no severance package, with just a few days’ notice, but in France, where the labor laws are different, employees were given more time to prepare.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.